The Stress of The Dress
If your high school senior son or daughter is obese, and if you think peer pressure and teen socialization is tough as it is, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! No, I’m not talking about the stress of waiting for acceptances to all those college applications. I’m also not referring to the pressures teens live with as relates to peer acceptance or to social media expectations of who has the most ‘likes’ to determine self-worth and popularity. I am referring to the onset of shopping-for-prom season, which is now upon us.
I first wrote about this issue last year (Preparing For The Prom) and spoke about the joy and memories of shopping with my daughter the year before and the happy tears in my eyes every time she stepped out of the dressing room in another gown.
It is, however, a difficult time for many overweight and obese teens.
- They will be inundated with all the “How To Lose Weight Fast For Prom” gimmicks in articles and posts across their various social channels and youth-oriented magazines. Parents, be aware.
- They may start starving themselves, or eating sparingly at the dinner table, or telling you they’re not hungry, that they already ate. Keep your eyes open.
- Those who started their senior year in the fall with best intentions to get in shape for prom realize now how quickly time has passed, and they may start to be depressed because they’ve made no accomplishments in their weight loss attempts. They may even have gained more weight. Keep your eyes open.
- Teens who have had eating disorders in the past (bulimia, anorexia, binge-purge) may slowly slip into recurrence, triggered by the stress of going to the prom (will I have a date? will I be rejected if I ask someone to go with me?) and shopping for it (will I be able to find anything decent in my size?). Keep your eyes open.
- Your teens might start to engage in negative self-talk about their weight and appearance or start telling you and/or their friends that they don’t want to go the prom. Keep your ears tuned.
It can also be a difficult time for many parents, who put their best face forward but who are anguished at seeing their obese teens having few in-store selections as well as the anxiety of stepping out of the dressing room and not liking the way they look.
Parents, prom can be the catalyst to a conversation with your obese teen to start making some lifestyle changes. The emphasis shouldn’t be on losing weight for the prom but, more importantly, in advance of beginning their college life. Whether your obese teens are outwardly happy and comfortable with their size and eagerly looking forward to the prom, or not, obesity affects them the same: It shortens their life spans, stunts their ability to find happiness and, for many, a larger body leads to a more troubled mind. At a time when your sons and daughters (and you!) are getting ready for the next chapter in their lives—the rigorous course work of college or university, change in schedule, routine, sleeping and eating habits, self-advocacy, socialization efforts, and perhaps being away from home for the first time—a ‘troubled mind’ easily becomes more troublesome. And an overweight or obese teen easily gains even more weight in college, especially freshman year.
Lastly, and very importantly, “I’m too fat to go to the prom” is something I hear every year from overweight teens and no doubt some of you may hear from yours. And every year my response is the same: No one is too fat to go to the prom. Period. Prom is not about the size of the dress or tuxedo. Prom is about saying goodbye to one’s high school years. It’s about ‘formal-ly’ passing from one’s teen’s to young adulthood, college-bound. It’s about having a blast with both classmates and teachers, with whom a teen has traveled through the years from one grade to the next, many or most of whom a teen may never see again. It’s about getting all dolled up from head to toe, many for the first time. It’s about traveling in style in a limousine or carriage or some other special vehicle, again many for the first time. It’s about a teen’s first no-curfew to continue the fun at an after-party ’til the wee hours of the morning. That’s what prom is about.